Sustainably Sourcing Fabrics

Sustainably Sourcing Fabrics

We’d like to take a bit of time to share with you how we source fabrics with a sustainability mindset and environmental focus. First lets look at what we mean when we say we source fabrics sustainably. What we refer to as sustainably sourced fabrics, are generally pre-loved fabrics. These are often vintage fabrics, de-stashed fabrics, dead-stock fabrics or reclaimed fabrics. Other sustainable fabrics we source new are organic or natural fibre based fabrics.

Often we get asked where do we source our fabrics from, and there are quite a few different places we go “fabric hunting”. We have a few great vintage fabric sellers we follow on instagram and etsy who do the hard work of rummaging around to find amazing fabrics. Some of our favourite fabric buys have come from international etsy sellers who have a totally different selection of places to buy from. What we love about instagram and etsy sellers is that through them we have a wider selection of secondhand opportunities to source through, and we get to support other small businesses too! The only down side is that often the fabrics are only available in short lengths which means it isn’t always suitable for dressmaking.

There are a also couple of stores we love checking out for dead-stock fabric – The Fabric Store which is mostly a brick and mortar store (they do offer phone orders, but you really have to go in to see the fabrics!) always has an incredible selection of natural fibre fabrics and dead-stock fabrics from designer runs, we love having access to such great quality fabrics in shorter runs but with plenty of meterage. Another awesome store we love is The Remnant Warehouse who are conveniently online as well as having a physical store. Their selection is next level and I have found some incredible things there that I haven’t even been able to find anywhere else online!

Sometimes we do purchase fabric new out of necessity. When this is the case we do our best to source organic fibre or natural fibre based fabrics including silk, cotton, linen or occasionally wool. When purchasing new we like to support independent designers and small fabric producers and resellers.

Other options for sourcing fabric include op shops and garage sales. We don’t just look for fabric, but also old garments we can turn into something new, as well as tablecloths and sheets that need new life breathed into them. The same rules apply here as they do to our purchases through instagram and etsy. We call this “reclaimed” fabric, and we do recommend giving this fabric a good wash before cutting in to it. The difficult thing about buying fabric secondhand is that you cannot guarantee you will know the fibre content. You will often see on our website that we give our best estimate of fibre content where our fabric has been sourced secondhand and we are not 100% sure of the content.

The things we look for when sourcing fabrics are first and fore-mostly fibre content. Where we can, we find out the fibre content of the fabric and try to stick with mostly natural fibres. This ensures that at the garment’s “end of life” it can decompose easily. Unfortunately blended fabrics and synthetics do not decompose in the same way natural fibres do (but this is topic for discussion on another post). Another thing we look at is the quality of the fabric – does it have misprinting, staining, moth holes, wear and tear from storage or any pilling. Sometimes this is a difficult task to complete as we don’t always get to view our fabrics in person before purchase.

Lets move to talk a little about dead-stock fabric. There’s a bit of discussion around whether its actually sustainable or not. Dead stock fabric is fabric that was ordered by a designer or supplier that is excess to their needs, so it is on sold to smaller brands and designers. The debate about whether it is sustainable or not comes from the fact that the fabric mills traditionally produce excess knowing that it will eventually be purchased, so in buying dead stock fabric we are actually supporting over production in the fabric industry. We still think it is a good option when sewing sustainably, especially if you are looking for something a bit special and don’t have the luxury of time or convenience of local upshots to hunt through for just the right thing. It is still seen as sustainable, but its just not the most sustainable option.

If you are wanting to buy new then considering the lifecycle of the fabric is important. Is the fabric sustainably harvested? How much water is used in production? What chemicals are used to produce the fabric? Are the people involved in production part of ethical practices? How does the fabric break down in the environment after the garment is worn out? These are just a few questions to ask.

There is lots of innovation in the industry moving to closed loop or circular fashion economies where waste (both textile and plant) is recycled into producing yarn and textiles that are quality cloth and good enough for clothing use. There is also movement to increase circular fashion trimmings such as elastics so that entire garments can be recycled or composted when the fabric is worn out. Another great concept we have seen is the recycling of plastics into synthetic fabrics, so while we prefer the natural fibres, if you do wish to work with synthetics there are greener options out there than buying new.

We hope this article has helped you in understanding a little bit more about fabric sourcing and sustainability, and maybe it has inspired you to look in a couple of different places to find your next cloth to cut into. We know researching for this has helped us find some new great things that are happening in the industry that give us great hope for the future of the industry to be greener and more sustainable.


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